I dreamed last night for what seemed like a long time, and I woke up remembering it. And that means that it's worth paying attention to.
In my dream, I was hanging out with R., my gay boyfriend from college. I have had a number of gay boyfriends. Not in the "he's out and proud, and we love to go shopping together" way, but in the "he's not out to you and maybe not to himself and certainly not to his parents" way. Because, you see, this was 25-30 years ago. No one knew, then, that It Could Get Better. No one talked about it at all.
In the dream, he was trying to set me up with another guy. I was wounded and angry and didn't understand why! When I woke up, I did: he was trying to put me with someone who matched me in terms of orientation. And he was trying to remove himself from an impossible situation.
I can't blame R. for that (even though nothing like that actually happened in our relationship). We spent a lot of years with him telling me that, although he'd had a relationship with a man in the past, he didn't think he was actually gay. And I was willing to believe him about that, and work with him on it. We actually got engaged one night at Bonfire; you may be sure that there were definitely happy-making substances involved. Hope Springs Eternal, no?
Several years after we were in college and he was out to me, R. took his life partner to his parents' house for his birthday, and they brought in a stripper. A female stripper. Oh, yes, they did. I saw the video they made of it. It was torturous to watch. His parents had been told but could not accept it. Horrible for him, for his partner.
And, in general, the whole messy set of situations, not very nice for me.
In high school and college, I had also dated men who were not gay, some seriously, and so I had a realistic idea of what heterosexual men were interested in.
And yet, I kept getting involved with guys who needed a beard, or couldn't even imagine being gay, or whatever. At the time, I wasn't sophisticated enough to understand or suspect any of it. In fact, I remember vividly the first time a guy I had dated came out to me, and it was utterly mind blowing. Because, back then, that didn't happen. There was no Gay Straight Alliance at my school (or anywhere that I knew of!). There were folks I knew in high school who turned out (later) to be gay, and I said, with the vantage point of later "well of course they were," but there was not a single indication that I was aware of about that at the time. If they were bullied (and I'm sure they were) I was oblivious.
It was like the 1920's or the 1850's or something. "The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name," I knew about it, but I had no sense of the reality of it that surrounded me.
In my undergraduate work I did a Technical Speaking class and my major project was on Ryan White, the little boy who got AIDS from a blood transfusion and whose local school district wanted to ban him. They didn't understand how AIDS was spread and they were afraid. In my presentation I said (based on my research) that up to 10% of the population is gay, and my professor said, "Oh, now, that can't possibly be true." She was utterly SHOCKED by that statement.
I, on the other hand, was at that time going to the local gay bar with R. and his gay friends (yes, you can say it: "REALLY MB?! You still thought he was going to turn out straight? REALLY?!") and there were always A LOT of people there. Note that it was very well hidden, no signage. We were always on the alert in case there was a raid. And we always drank beer from bottles, never cocktails, because of AIDS, because we were afraid.
Afraid, afraid, afraid.
What I gained from these associations (besides a lot of fun and great friendships) was a lot of confusion and frustration. And fear: what was wrong with ME? It had lasting effects. I still struggle with them.
So when I hear about my friend's wonderful high school daughter who is a straight ally in her school's chapter of GSA, I am absolutely thrilled. That young lady has friends who have been aware of their real orientations for years and who have had allies to stand beside them. I'm not saying they have it easy, or that all the GLBTQIA kids are out, but the information is there. The It Gets Better Project is there. The Trevor Project is there. Glee is a major national TV show with gay teenage characters. There are other groups and organizations, and most of all, it's part of our national conversation.
It gets better. When it gets better for them, it gets better for us. Because we are all THEM and they are all US in some ways.